Bucs help pass rush by taking DE Noah Spence
TAMPA -- After the all the parties and the pills and failed drug tests got him kicked out of Ohio State, Noah Spence decided the thing that mattered most to him was playing football.
"When I hit rock bottom, when I felt like I had nothing else left, when I lost football, I knew I had to turn my life around," Spence said. "I had to realize what I loved and I knew I loved the game. I had to do what I had to do to be able to have it.
"Football is my life. I don’t ever want to feel like I felt when they took it away from me again. So you don’t ever have to worry about me doing anything that will hinder that or have that happen."
If Spence is right, the Bucs may have acquired the best pure pass rusher in the NFL draft Friday night with the 39th overall pick.
Spence, who went from an All-Big Ten defensive end with eight sacks and 141/2 tackles for losses in 2013 to being banned from the school he loved for twice failing drug tests issued by the conference, actually began to turn his life and career around at Eastern Kentucky.
He was the Ohio Valley Conference co-defensive player of the year last season with 11 1/2 sacks and 22 1/2 tackles for a loss. In January at the Senior Bowl, the 6-foot-3, 261-pounder was the most natural and effective pass rusher.
"Yeah, I just wanted to prove to everybody I was past the mistakes I made and I wanted to show everybody that I’m the straight and narrow path and want to do all I can in football."
Spence said the only drug he ever tested positive for was ecstasy, also known as "molly" or the "hug drug," a psychoactive drug chemically similar to the stimulant methamphetamine and producing an energizing effect, as well as distortions in time and perception. Spence said with the help of his father, he learned to become more introspective and break away from the party scene and people who used drugs. He says he has been tested since his suspension about once a week, a routine that is continuing.
This week, Spence sent his past 20 drug tests he has taken since May to all 32 NFL teams, according to ESPN.
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, who was working the draft for the NFL Network, said Spence doesn’t lack for effort on the football field and seemed to vouch for his character.\
"Noah Spence, as we talked about, he’s that undersized – not a lengthy defensive end pass rusher, but he’s got that Von Miller-type size and a great athlete," Meyer said. "We had him for three years at Ohio State. The thing I love about Noah, he practices hard every day. He brings it every day in the weight room. He brings it every day on the practice field. I think he’s going to have a great career, because I’ve seen him work, and I trust who he is."
The Bucs were on Spence early in the draft process. Spence was trained by former Falcons defensive end Chuck Smith, who was a neighbor of Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith when he was the head coach for the Falcons.
Spence said he also struck up a fast relationship with Bucs defensive line coach Jay Hayes.
"Man, I owe all the coaches a lot. I feel like I had a good feel with them," Spence said. “They felt like family when I walked around the facilities and stuff like that and when I was with coach Jay, when we went out to eat, I don’t know, he reminded me a lot of my dad and he’s a real big part of my life. It felt like almost a home away from home. That’s just how it felt."